The initial impetus behind embarking on this research project into the Portuguese migrant workers’ community was a news report on an arson attack in 2000 against a house in Portadown in which Portuguese workers were living. Although I was initially surprised to discover that people from Portugal were coming to Northern Ireland in search of employment, and also somewhat shocked that apparent resentment at their presence had resulted in such an aggressive act, as I reflected on this incident, I realised that this was not the first time I had encountered such a phenomenon. I was reminded of a conversation I had had the previous year with an academic colleague, in which she told me that she had recently read a student’s essay that mentioned Portuguese workers in Dungannon. The essay was on the subject of emigration, and this particular piece of work commented on the fact that "loads of Portuguese workers" had arrived in that town to work in chicken factories, taking jobs away from local people.
In light of the above, when the Multi Cultural Resource Centre in Belfast asked me whether I would be interested in undertaking some research in order to shed some light on the situation of Portuguese workers in the Dungannon and Portadown areas, I readily accepted. Furthermore, before I began my work, I thought that by taking part in this project I would be helping out a community that seemed to me to be under attack. This sentiment was initially reinforced upon my first visit to Dungannon in July of 2001. There I met community workers and trade unionists, as well as some Portuguese residing in the area, and I was made aware that some racist abuse was being directed against the Portuguese in the form of a poster that had been circulating in the town. Whether these preliminary views of the Portuguese community have a solid foundation in factual terms, is what the following results from my research intend to show.
It is also important to note that, since the date on which this project began (August 2001), and the time in which it was being drafted, more potentially relevant information came into my possession. That information revealed some more negative attitudes experienced by Portuguese individuals, but comprising of a relatively small number of cases (three). It was not included within the report for practical reasons, but also because it is not yet appropriate to determine whether these cases form part of an emerging trend, or whether they are isolated. It has also become clear that, as awareness of this project spread amongst the Portuguese, some individuals may be more willing to come forward with such information. Nevertheless, it was decided that the report should be disseminated in its current form, and if further cases of this type emerge, then a follow-up report will be made. Moreover, the current report indicates in its conclusions that, for reasons explained within it, research of this type should be carried out periodically.
The research was undertaken in two forms: through a questionnaire (added as an appendix), and through interviews, mainly on a one-to-one basis, although some interviews had two or three interviewees. The interview process used the "snowball" strategy, whereby an initial Portuguese individual would supply me with several other contacts, who would, in their turn, furnish me with more, and so on. The questionnaire contained 41 questions, divided into the following categories: personal information, migratory information, linguistic knowledge, education, employment, civil participation, and public services and the state. In turn, the interview, consisting of 45 questions, focused on the individual’s current situation in Northern Ireland, and aspects of their lives in Portugal before coming here. In particular, it attempted to acquire knowledge of their employment, housing, and insights into their perceptions of the local communities they live in and work with, and their relations to other Portuguese.
In order to ensure that as much reliable information as possible could be gathered, both the questionnaires and the interviews were undertaken anonymously, and the question of the protection of individuals’ anonymity was stressed. Therefore, the names used in excerpts from interviews contained within this report have been changed in order to fulfil the obligations of anonymity. The decision to gather data on an anonymous basis was vindicated as the research project was under way, as the majority of individuals approached were initially reluctant to participate until it was made clear to them that their anonymity would be guaranteed.
Also, it should be highlighted at this point that this project encountered some initial difficulties. It was decided that the Portuguese community in Dungannon should be approached in the first instance, but there was a significant reluctance to be seen to answer questions when the research commenced. A number of individuals whom I initially approached in early August 2001 were only prepared to answer a few questions, saying that their unwillingness to co-operate further was due to "having had enough problems, and not wanting to have more". When asked as to the nature of these problems, some said that they had been physically and verbally abused by individuals from the local community, although many more replied that "some Portuguese individuals behaved badly, and were giving the rest of them a bad reputation", so they did not want to add to that. However, many of these individuals gave me Portuguese contacts in Portadown, which is where I turned to next, but I returned to Dungannon subsequently and found a much greater willingness to participate. I was informed that those in Dungannon had heard from many of the individuals I had spoken to in Portadown, and they had been told of the nature of the research and what it involved, and were therefore made aware that it would not have negative consequences for participants.
What follows next is a statistical analysis of data gathered during this research project, divided into the following sections: personal information, migratory information, linguistic knowledge, education, employment, civil participation, and public services and the state. Where appropriate, excerpts and information gathered from interviews will be included alongside the statistics, in order to highlight significant aspects. The initial sample used is from 72 questionnaires (26 from the Dungannon area, and 46 from Portadown), and excerpts from a sample of fourteen interviews.
The following statistics are on gender, age and marital status.
N.B.: According to information gathered during interviews, within the 16-25 years of age range, the majority are between the ages of 22 and 25. Also, within the 26-35 years of age range, most are between 26 to 31 years of age.
Although there were no instances of respondents to the questionnaire who were married, subsequent interviews revealed that some interviewees knew of a small number of Portuguese workers who were married (three or four). Furthermore, I was informed that these individuals were all male, and that their spouses had remained in Portugal, although two of these were planning to have their partners join them here to reside permanently.
This section contains information on: country of origin, period of residence in Northern Ireland, reasons for coming here, whether they have children and are they residing here, and whether they have resided in other countries.
Country of origin
N.B.: Those whose country of origin is not Portugal are nevertheless Portuguese nationals, whose Portuguese citizenship derives from the fact that they were born in Portuguese ex-colonies: two from Angola, one from Mozambique, and one from Cape Verde. It should also be noted that I was also informed that a number of East Timorese were also residing in Northern Ireland.
Reasons for coming to Northern Ireland
Of those who said in interview that they had come to both work and study, the majority had not enrolled for any courses or were taking any type of classes, and were actually only working. When asked why they were not studying as they had intended, they responded that they found that they had no time to do anything outside the workplace. However, there were a small number (5) that had previously taken, or were currently taking, English language classes.
Current period of residence in Northern Ireland
The period of residence in Northern Ireland is in most cases directly linked to the contractual nature of the work undertaken by Portuguese workers. Six months contracts are signed by workers with recruitment agencies, who provide mainly meat processing factories with employees. Once the contractual period of six months is over, the recruitment agencies normally offer workers the opportunity to renew the contract for a further six month period.
However, as the data shows, 50% are at the six-month limit of their contracts, and a majority of these decline the offer to renew their contracts and return to Portugal instead. A typical example of someone in this situation is 22 year-old João, who had been residing here for five months. He was asked why he was not intending to renew his contract, and answered:
"I never intended to stay here for longer than six months. I just saw this as an opportunity to see what life was like in Ireland and to travel. I’ve done that, and now I want to get back home as soon as possible."
Another example of someone in João’s position was Pedro, who was 24 years old, and was in the last week of his contract. In answer to the same question, he said:
"I didn’t really have any fixed plans when I came here, but I’m certain now that I don’t want to stay. The money isn’t as good as I thought it would be, especially because things are more expensive here than I realised. If I’m going to be living on little money, I’d rather be doing that in Portugal where it’s sunnier and I can be with friends."
Pedro’s feelings were echoed by many, who also expressed that they had not been able to adapt to what they saw as a different culture. There were many who stated that they could not identify any activities undertaken by the local communities in which they could participate, and that they perceived their local work colleagues to have a "work and pub culture" that they did not share and could not afford.
Nevertheless, 33.4% of respondents had been living in Northern Ireland for a period of seven to twelve months, the majority of these having renewed their contracts with the recruitment agencies. However, of those who had been here for more than six months, 9 individuals had found employment directly with meat processing factories, and had not continued as workers contracted by the recruitment agencies. These two positions reflect divergent comments made during interviews, highlighting different aspirations with regards to the period of residence here. Those who had simply renewed their contracts with the recruitment agencies tended largely to view the extension to their stay here as an opportunity to earn some extra money, and that they would then return to Portugal at the end of the twelve months. In contrast, those individuals who had found employment directly not only saw their extended stay here as financially motivated, but also because the change in their employment status was viewed as offering them better conditions of work. These differing attitudes are apparent from interviews carried out with two workers: Hugo (26), who had been in Northern Ireland for 9 months, having renewed his contract with his recruitment agency; and Dora (32), who had been here for ten months, and had managed to find work directly in a meat processing factory. When asked why they had decided to stay for longer than six months, their explanations were as follows:
HUGO: I was asked by the recruitment agency if I wanted to stay for another six months. The work’s not too bad, and I’m earning some money, so I thought, "why not?" I wasn’t doing anything in Portugal, so what’s the point of going back and doing nothing? Some people can’t take it here for more than six months, but I think I can, so I’ll get a bit more money, and then I’ll go home and hope to find some work there with the experience I got in Ireland.
DORA: The agency offered me another contract, but some people I know said that I could get work in another factory and the money was better. So I went for an interview in another factory, and I got the job. They treat you better, and the Portuguese people working there are more serious than a lot of the others here. A lot of them come here thinking that they’re going to make loads of money in six months, but then they find out it’s nothing like that and they just go home. I’m a good worker and I was lucky. It’s not too bad here if you’re prepared to work.
Dora, and others in her situation, had no concrete plans to return to Portugal in the near future, as their attitude was that there was an opportunity to have a better standard of living here if you were prepared to work hard, whereas there were no guarantees that they would return to employment in Portugal. However, they also admitted the possibility that they would eventually return to their country, as they had no guarantees as to the length of their current employment.
In contrast, there were more positive views expressed of the possibility of remaining in Northern Ireland for the longer term by two of the four individuals who had been here for up to two years. These workers had described their employment as being of a "supervisory" nature, and the two interviewed saw themselves as having integrated well into their local communities. Simão (36) was confident of his future here, and when talking of his current employment as a "supervisor" said:
"I’ve done that for a while now, but I’m not planning to do it for much longer. I’m thinking of starting up my own business because I’ve made some good contacts here. I like the way people do business here, and I’ve spotted a gap in the market, so there’s good opportunities here for intelligent people who aren’t afraid of hard work."
Do you have children?
Those who responded that they had children, also indicated that none of them were residing here with them. The vast majority of them were divorced men whose children were living with their former partners, although one was a divorced woman whose two children were being cared for by her mother.
When some of them were asked in interviews about being here without their children, they commented on how difficult it was to be living so far away from them, and not being able to see them as often as they would wish. Most of them pointed out that they phoned their children as often as they could, which was a significant source of expenditure.
Have you resided in other countries?
As the statistics clearly show, the majority of Portuguese workers in Northern Ireland have resided in other countries. Of these the majority had worked in France (22.2%), Germany (22.2%), Switzerland (16.7%), Luxembourg (11.1%), Spain (11.1%) and the Netherlands (11.1%), although other countries were mentioned, such as the Republic of Ireland, Austria, Italy and England.
The fact that many had lived and worked in other countries impacted on how they viewed their experiences working in Northern Ireland. The most significant aspect was in how Portuguese people living here do not see themselves as a community, in contrast to what they have seen in other countries where Portuguese nationals are working. This view was starkly revealed in interviews, where all of those asked whether they thought that there existed a feeling of community among the Portuguese living here replied in the negative, whether they had resided in another country or not. But those who had previously worked abroad elsewhere were able to elucidate their opinions with examples from their past experiences. Manuela (28) had been in Northern Ireland for eight months, and was strongly of the view that there was no community spirit among the Portuguese here. When asked to explain why this was the case, she replied:
"All we do is work and go home. Nobody socialises much outside of work, unless it’s to sit down and have a coffee somewhere just to pass some time. There’s nowhere to go really, especially if you’re not into going to pubs, which seem to be the only places people can go to meet. It’s not like in France, where there were loads of Portuguese living there, and they’ve got their own places. They’ve got social clubs, football clubs, Portuguese restaurants, shops, cafés, loads of places to go to. None of the Portuguese here seem to want to organise something like that."
However, a number of individuals within the Dungannon area referred to a community space that the South Tyrone Empowerment Project had acquired on Sunday afternoons, in Dungannon, for the use of Portuguese resident in the area. But, although they knew of this opportunity for Portuguese to meet outside the workplace, in a space specifically dedicated to them, few of them said they made use of it. When asked why they did not avail themselves of this opportunity, they again compared their current situation with past experiences working in other countries. There, such spaces were created by Portuguese residents for the Portuguese, and they were equipped with satellite television, which carried Portuguese channels, and had refreshments imported from Portugal, or provided by Portuguese shops in the area.
Again, the contractual nature of the work for most Portuguese living in Northern Ireland, in comparison with the types of employment in other countries, allied to the relatively small numbers of Portuguese here in contrast to countries such as France, Germany and Switzerland, were offered as possible reasons for the apparent lack of a community spirit. Paulo (30), who had lived and worked in France for eighteen months, explained it thus:
"It’s very different here. When I was working in Paris, there were thousands of us there. You could be walking down a street and you’d here most people speaking Portuguese. Lots of people went over there to work, because they already had family there who told them to go over. It’s not like that here. We haven’t got anybody we know here, and all the Portuguese come over through an agency, and most just go home when their contracts are finished. The people are always changing, and the new ones coming over aren’t always the kind of people you’d want to socialise with."
This section deals with the individual’s level of English, as defined by the individual himself, and whether they have knowledge of any other languages.
How do you define your knowledge of English?
At first glance, these statistics referring to the levels of English linguistic competence amongst the Portuguese living in Northern Ireland seem to suggest that there are very few who see themselves as having bad, or very bad knowledge of English. However, the greatest percentage (44.3%) classify themselves as having a satisfactory knowledge of English, which does not signify that the individuals concerned are comfortable in every area of English usage, particularly when it comes to the use of English in technical or specialist areas.
This fact became more apparent during interviews, where once again the contractual nature of most Portuguese employment has some bearing on self-classification in knowledge of the English language. It became clear that many relate the levels of English they need to their period of residence here: the shorter the time they are going to be living here, the less knowledge of English they feel they need to be able to communicate their needs. José (28), who had been in Northern Ireland for five months, and defined himself as having a satisfactory knowledge of English, explained how he used his English:
"In the factory I don’t really have to speak that much English, because there’s a few of us working on the same line. My English isn’t that bad if I have to go to the shops, and anyway, I do most of my shopping in the supermarket. I can make myself understood with the Irish, and I can have conversations with them. The only time I had a bit of trouble was when I had to go to the doctor, but I took a friend of mine who has better English, and he explained things to the doctor when I couldn’t, but we got by."
Although José typifies the experience of many of those who classify themselves as having a satisfactory knowledge of English, Paula exemplifies the greater difficulties encountered by others. She is twenty-seven, and has been working here for nine months:
"My English isn’t too bad, although I’m not saying that I’m fluent or anything. I didn’t really have any problems to begin with, just when I had to go to the hospital once, and then I phoned a friend to come and help me. But then I decided to stay after the six months, and I got another job in a factory that wasn’t with the agency. The new factory wanted my P45, so I had to try and sort that out, and I went to the Social Security. But I couldn’t explain what I needed, and I didn’t really trust any of the Portuguese who had better English to translate what I wanted properly. But I sorted it out in the end."
Paula was in fact trying to improve her competence in English by attending language classes in a local community centre, where I met her and Jorge, the only other Portuguese student attending that night. They informed me that these classes had been set up by the factory in which they both worked, specifically for Portuguese workers, but that the numbers attending had decreased considerably. When asked as to the reasons for this decline, they both said that the other workers had found it very hard to acquire new vocabulary solely through the medium of English. They said that people would have preferred to learn new vocabulary by introducing it preferably in Portuguese, but otherwise in another language, such as French.
The statistics gathered from the questionnaires to a large extent support Paula and Jorge’s request to introduce new vocabulary through another language, as considerable numbers of Portuguese indicated that they had knowledge of other languages, especially French, which 40 spoke. The other languages spoken, were Spanish (24), German (12), Italian (4), as well as smaller numbers speaking Dutch.
This section addresses the level of education individuals have acquired (primary, secondary or tertiary), whether the individual feels that their educational qualifications have been recognised in Northern Ireland, and whether they feel that they have been discriminated against because they received their education in another country.
Level of Education
As the statistics clearly show, the great majority of the Portuguese resident here have a secondary school education, which is the mandatory level required by Portuguese law. However, the data also reveals that there is a small percentage that have only acquired a primary school education, which could be as a result of the individuals concerned belonging to the upper end of the 36-50 age group. In that case, they would have received the minimum obligatory level of education required at the time, which was four years of primary school. Otherwise, the other cause of this level of education would be that those individuals did not complete the mandatory secondary level of education. Nevertheless, the overall figures show that the greater majority of Portuguese have come to Northern Ireland with a high educational level.
Are your educational qualifications recognised here?
Although the majority of respondents answered that they felt that their educational qualifications had been recognised here, it must be noted that in most cases this is an untested perception. Those who are contracted by recruitment agencies indicated that there was very little account taken of their educational achievements when applying for employment, and that once they were in Northern Ireland those qualifications would not be requested, unless the individual looked for employment elsewhere, independently of the recruitment agencies.
Again, this situation can also account for some of those who replied that they felt that their qualifications had not been recognised here. In interviews it emerged that many of these individuals felt that their qualifications had not been acknowledged, purely to the fact that they had never been requested to provide proof of them. In other words, they had never been given the opportunity to show that they possessed a high level of education. But others who had also replied negatively explained that their reason for so indicating was due to their experience in seeking employment independently. In these cases the individuals concerned indicated their qualifications, but these were simply dismissed as irrelevant by the prospective employer. In interviews this attitude was described as having an employer’s representative cursorily looking at the qualifications possessed, and saying "I don’t understand this foreign gibberish". It must be noted, however, that in none of these instances was the Portuguese individual unsuccessful in gaining employment with the employer concerned, although the attitude shown with regard to their education was perceived negatively.
Do you feel discriminated against for having obtained your education abroad?
The responses to this question were even more divergent than in the previous one, as a larger majority was of the opinion that they had not been discriminated against due to having received their education abroad. When some of those who were of this opinion were asked in interviews to clarify their position, it was explained that they had no reason to believe that they had been discriminated against for this reason. As Rui (23), who had been working here for two months explained:
"Why would they discriminate against us because of that? They asked the agency to bring us here because they wanted workers, and as we do the work they ask us to, they have no reason to complain. And anyway, the type of work we do doesn’t need a university degree: it’s horrible, backbreaking work. So they’re not going to discriminate against us because of our education."
However, those interviewed who responded that they felt that they had suffered discrimination due to their foreign education were predominantly in a different situation to Rui’s. Although there were a small number of individuals who, like Rui, were working through recruitment agencies, the greater number were those who had left this type of employment. In these cases, interviews revealed that the discrimination was not seen as coming from employers, but rather from colleagues from the local communities. Again, it was explained that the employers had no reason to discriminate on these grounds, as the type of work they required the Portuguese to undertake did not, in their view, require educational qualifications. Instead, it was felt that some local colleagues were derisory of their education, simply because it had been acquired in Portugal, and was assumed by them to be inferior. Manuel (31), who had been here for eleven months, and was working directly for a meat processing factory, said:
"The bosses don’t care about us, as long as we do the work. But there’s a few of the Irish workers who call us stupid because we went to school in Portugal. They make fun of us, and say that our schools are rubbish, because why would be here doing this crap work if they were any good?"
Manuel’s comments were echoed by others, and underlined a sense that the Portuguese felt that some individuals from local communities reacted negatively to them from an ignorance of their country’s culture. This sentiment reappears in relation to other aspects of the relationship between the Portuguese and the local communities in which they are living.
This section contains information on employment status, type of employment, time in current post, whether part or full time, normal hours worked per week, whether the individual works at weekends or night shifts, whether the individual has fixed schedule of work, has had any other employment in Northern Ireland and of what type, whether the individual has felt discriminated against in the workplace or in looking for work, and whether the individual was employed in Portugal and in what type of employment.
Are you employed now?
Although the above figures show that a substantial minority of the Portuguese resident in Northern Ireland were unemployed at the time they were responding, it must be noted that, according to the information gathered in interviews, very few of these had been without work for a substantial period of time. In reality, many of these individuals were in the process of moving from contracted work with a recruitment agency, to direct employment with meat processing factories, or other factories in the food sector. Others stated that they were planning to study, although, when asked, none had actually formally enrolled on any courses. However, there were a few cases (three) of individuals who had been dismissed from their employment via the recruitment agencies, who had no firm prospects of finding a new employer. Both groups (i.e., those who were moving to direct employment with factories, and those who were without a secure future position) encountered varying degrees of hardship.
Some of those who had secured positions directly with factories expressed concerns about their short-term finances, as although they knew that they would be returning to work in the near future, they very often had little or no savings to fall back on while they were out of work. The amount of money they would have earned in their first six months working through a recruitment agency did not allow for any significant period of time without work. This group also often expressed a reluctance to apply for any sort of statutory benefits, as they were awaiting to start new jobs, and because they felt intimidated by the perceived complexity of applying for such benefits. Very often, the result would be that an individual in such a position would approach a friend in employment for temporary financial assistance, reimbursing them after commencing their new employment.
Those who had been dismissed from their employment via the recruitment agencies found themselves in a much direr situation. In these cases there were few prospects of finding new employment in the short term, and no immediate source of finance to purchase an airplane ticket to return home. Here there was a much more urgent need to apply for statutory benefits, and therefore no option but to embark on what they saw as a bureaucratic process where linguistic difficulties may become more apparent. Again, as in the case of the first group, there was significant reliance on the good will of other Portuguese to help financially, but also recourse to family in Portugal, which the first group would only contemplate in the last instance. Those individuals interviewed who had been dismissed and had not been provided with the means to return to Portugal explained that their situation was unusual, as others who had been in their position had been furnished with airplane tickets to return home. To further complicate matters, these individuals had not received any written declaration that they had been dismissed, or given reasons for their dismissal. Furthermore, they had not been provided with any documentation relating to overall deductions made for social security or tax purposes at the time of their termination of employment, which increased their difficulties in applying for statutory benefits. This difficulty was also encountered by the first group, who needed to provide such documentation to their new employers. Rodrigo (24), who had been dismissed by a recruitment agency after five months in employment explained the difficulties he had faced:
"I don’t know why they fired me. A supervisor just came up to me one day when I came in to begin my shift, and told me not to turn up again, and to leave my accommodation. I asked him why and he wouldn’t answer, but I wouldn’t leave, so he just turned his back on me and walked away. When I got home my stuff was lying outside the house and there was already someone else in my room. […] I had to go and stay with a friend, which is where I still am. […] I’ve tried phoning the agency loads of times to try and get a plane ticket home, but either they don’t answer, or they just hang up. […] I’ve tried talking to some of the other supervisors here, but they say it’s not up to them, and when I ask them for my papers, they say they’ll be sent to me in the post."
As can be seen by Rodrigo’s statement, his dismissal has also affected his accommodation, as those workers contracted by recruitment agencies are provided with housing as part of their contract, as well as at least one return flight to Portugal. Once their contract has been terminated, they forfeit their accommodation, and are left in the position of either remaining where they are and facing any consequences that might entail or, as in Rodrigo’s case, finding temporary shelter with a friend.
Type of job
As the figures show, the vast majority of Portuguese in employment are working on factory lines, mostly in meat processing factories, but also in other factories involved in the food processing sector. Within these figures a large percentage are contracted in Portugal by recruitment agencies to take up these positions in Northern Ireland, mostly in the Dungannon, Craigavon and Portadown areas. However, a much smaller percentage is represented by those who had originally come to Northern Ireland via a recruitment agency, but have subsequently found jobs directly with factories after their contracts with the agency had been fulfilled.
The much smaller percentage is represented by individuals who work in a supervisory capacity on behalf of the recruitment agencies. According to information gathered during interviews, their responsibilities appear to be wide ranging. They ensure that the workers are present for their shifts, and make note of any absences, as well as being the first point of local contact between the workers and the recruitment agencies. In the majority of cases, workers will approach their supervisor if they have problems with their accommodation, problems with transport (which is provided by the agency in the form of taxis), or have queries about their wages.
Length of time in current job
These figures clearly underline the fact that most Portuguese workers are normally resident in Northern Ireland for up to six months, in line with the length of their contracts with the recruitment agencies. Only a small percentage remain for longer than that period, either renewing their contract with the agency for another six months, or finding employment with a factory directly. Also contained within this smaller percentage are the supervisors, who tend to stay for a much longer period. The result, as has already been alluded to in the interviewees’ comments on the lack of a community spirit amongst the Portuguese, is that the Portuguese population resident in Northern Ireland is constantly changing, which will impact on any measures that might be taken affecting that community.
This characteristic was apparent when interviewing those who had been in Northern Ireland for less than six months. When asked whether they intended to prolong their stay here, the vast majority replied that they intended to return to Portugal once their contract had ended. Mário (25), who had been working in Northern Ireland for four months explained his position:
"I’m going back to Portugal in December [two months’ time] to stay. My contract’s finished then, and even if they [the recruitment agency] offer me another one, I don’t want to stay here. It’s hard work, and the money isn’t as good as I thought it was going to be. […] Most of the people that started at the same time as me are doing the same."
This lack of permanence within the Portuguese population, as stated earlier, leads to difficulties in a establishing a stable network that would lead to a stronger feeling of community spirit. Many of the individuals interviewed commented on the constant change of faces among the Portuguese workforce, but allied to this, what may be interpreted as a feeling of mistrust of new arrivals. Interviewees would very often describe those that had arrived in Northern Ireland as "troublemakers", "lower class" and "bad news". However, when asked to explain why they were using those terms, they just repeated the comments saying, "they bring trouble on themselves". It is interesting to note that such comments were made by each succeeding cohort about the most recent arrivals, which may indicate that the impermanence of the Portuguese population does not easily allow trust and understanding to be built up within the community.
In contrast, some of the minority that have been resident in Northern Ireland for a considerably longer period show stronger signs of co-operative relationships, and it is very often these that the group above approach when they are facing difficulties which are not resolved by their supervisors. Although, as stated earlier in this report, many of the individuals within this constituency have no firm plans to remain in Northern Ireland permanently, they appear to have developed a clearer understanding of the local communities in which they live, and to have developed friendly relations with individuals from those communities. As a consequence, they are also more equipped to deal with any problems which may arise, and are in a better position to help those Portuguese that require support.
Full or part-time
Almost all Portuguese workers resident in Northern Ireland are working on a full-time basis, especially as all those contracted by recruitment agencies are obliged to. The small percentage who responded that they were working part-time is represented by four individuals. However, two who were interviewed also answered that they worked part-time, but both of these had two part-time jobs each, and were in fact working more than forty hours per week. In their case, they were both resident here for over nine months, and had acquired their positions directly with factories after they had completed their six months contracts with the recruitment agencies.
Average hours worked per week
The figures clearly illustrate that the majority of Portuguese work 31-40 hours, although this figure is more significantly represented by those who work an average of 38-40 hours. The percentage of those who have an average of more than 41 hours per week is constituted by a significant number of individuals who are given overtime hours when they are available by the supervisors.
It must be noted that due to the type of industry the Portuguese work in, overtime hours are dependent on the amount of orders the particular factory receives, and the time in which they must be dispatched. Therefore, overall, these figures would be affected by the demands placed on factories, and the consequent fluctuation in the overtime hours available.
However, according to interviewees, when overtime hours are available, the supervisors operate a preference system, offering those hours to those that are deemed to be "good workers". Overtime hours become more generally available when a particular factory has received a larger order, or when an order is placed that must be dispatched within a shorter timescale.
Moreover, according to several interviewees, the process whereby the supervisors are responsible for allocating overtime hours can be used as a "disciplinary measure", denying those hours to certain individuals who have been deemed to have "misbehaved". Jorge (21), who has worked here for three months refers to it thus:
"The first week I was here I got overtime, but since then I haven’t had any. […] There’s been loads of weeks when the lines were really busy, and there was overtime, but I didn’t get any. Loads of other people did, and when I asked the supervisor if I could have some he said he didn’t have any. […] I don’t know what I did wrong, it’s just that I don’t let anyone talk to me anyway they want to, and I may have made that clear to the supervisor and he probably didn’t like that."
Jorge refers to a perception shared by others that the allocation of overtime hours is unfair, since there are no clear guidelines as to who is given preference, and as to why certain individuals may be refused them. Giving priority to those who are deemed "good workers" does not, in many individuals’ view, make clear who is a "good worker", as many of those that receive less overtime hours would place themselves in this category.
Do you only work Monday to Friday, or do you have to work at weekends?
Although a significant minority must work at weekends, those interviewed that were in this position did not regard it as unsatisfactory. According to them there was always the possibility that they might have their working days changed if they so requested, especially if a number of Portuguese were returning home at the end of their contracts. But generally, the response was that they were not concerned that they had to work at weekends, as long as their hours were not reduced. In fact, two interviewees told me that they preferred to have to work at weekends, as they would not be tempted to spend money on socialising.
Do you have to work night-shifts?
As the data clearly shows, the Portuguese workers are quite evenly divided between those working day-shifts and those working at night. This division is sometimes apparent in the development of relationships between the workers, as an individual is more likely to have a greater number of friendships with those working on the same shift which, again, may have some effect on the dynamics of community spirit. With these two different working patterns, two different groups of people emerge, with different daily living patterns, reducing the opportunities to intercommunicate among the whole community of Portuguese workers. Allied with the constant change of personnel ending or beginning a six month contract, the difficulties are increased in fostering a feeling of community.
Do you have set hours of work?
According to the information gathered in interviews, the minority that do not have regular hours of work belong to two categories: those who have a supervisory role, and a few individuals who are working directly for factories. As to the first category, the varied nature of their responsibilities does not normally allow for a set number of working hours per week. Although their duty to ensure that workers are present for their shifts can be carried out at certain set times, other tasks appear at irregular intervals, such as dealing with workers who have had problems in receiving their wages, or who have problems with their accommodation. They may also have to visit workers’ houses when they have not appeared for work, and the particular factory needs all its personnel to dispatch an order.
Have you had other jobs in Northern Ireland?
The significant majority of Portuguese workers have had no other employment in Northern Ireland other than their contracted work through the recruitment agencies. This is another indication that most Portuguese do not seek to remain in Northern Ireland for a prolonged period, but stay for the length of their six month contracts, or renew their contracts after that time. Those that have had other employment, according to interviewees, are individuals who have ended their relationship with the recruitment agencies, and have sought alternative employment. They are also representative of the minority that are not seeking to return to Portugal within the short term.
What other jobs have you had?
As the constituency represented here is represented almost exclusively by those Portuguese who have remained in Northern Ireland after their contracts with the recruitment agencies had come to an end, it should not be surprising to find that the significant majority had previously been employed in factories. In fact, most of them have moved from one job in a factory via a recruitment agency, to work in another factory directly. As to the other two types of employment indicated, it must be noted that none of those interviewed had been employed in sales, and that these responses came exclusively from the questionnaires. However, in two interviews, I was informed that at least one individual who was now a supervisor for a recruitment agency had been briefly employed in this area.
Also interviewed was Marco (29), who had been resident here for eleven months, and had previously been contracted by a recruitment agency for six months. He gave details of his employment history here:
"When I was working for the agency people told me that sometimes people were needed to pick potatoes. So when I was coming to the end of my contract, I tried to get a job in another factory where some Portuguese were working. But they told me there that I had to wait for a few weeks, and then they would take me. […] So I went with another Portuguese friend to a farm where they needed people to pick potatoes, and we were there for a few days, and then we were taken to another farm and got some more work there. […] Now I’m working in another factory, which is better."
Several other interviewees described a similar situation, indicating that the work available in the agricultural sector was not on a permanent basis, but rather occasional. They also described this type of work as poorly paid and physically demanding. Moreover, three interviewees mentioned that the fact that some Portuguese occasionally did such work was sometimes a source of resentment for individuals from the local community. It was explained to me that negative comments had been made by some local residents, saying that the Portuguese were taking away a source of occasional employment on which they relied upon from their own community.
Have you been discriminated against in searching for employment, or in your place of work?
Although the majority of Portuguese state that they have not been discriminated against in terms of employment, one important factor that was highlighted in interviews must be taken into account: many of those that replied that they have not been discriminated against were intending to stay in Northern Ireland no longer than the six months of their contract. Hence, whereas most of the respondents to the questionnaire replied that they had not faced discrimination, those that shared that view in interviews qualified their answer. It was explained that although they felt that they had not suffered any significant discrimination, they had faced certain attitudes that were discriminatory, but as they only intended to stay for six months it was felt that a few minor incidents did not qualify as a source of discrimination that merited action on their part.
The sentiment that was clearly expressed by individuals in this situation, was that it was not worth attempting to remedy the situation, as they would be back in Portugal in six months, and that, taking into account their experiences as a whole, they were generally content. Manuel (22), who had been working in Northern Ireland via a recruitment agency for four months, saw the situation thus:
"I haven’t had any great problems while I’ve been here. […] I’ve sometimes been annoyed at the way we’re treated, but it hasn’t been that bad. […] We’re foreigners here, so you have to expect some bad things. […] They brought us to work here because we’re cheap, so it’s not surprising that they sometimes treat us like we’re second class. It would be different if we had to stay here for a long time, but they know we’re going back to Portugal, so they can do things to us that they wouldn’t do otherwise."
Manuel was not certain, however, as to the source of the discrimination; he was ambivalent as to whether what he saw as certain instances of differential treatment were originating from the recruitment agencies, or from the factories that used those agencies. He realised that the factories approached the agencies originally to find a labour force, but the workers were contracted directly to the agencies themselves. But all of those interviewed that no longer worked through an agency, and had found employment directly with factories, form part of the minority that feel that they have been discriminated against, and this group states that, in their status as direct employees of the factories, they have not encountered any discrimination in their current place of work. According to those interviewed who belonged to this category, the discrimination they faced took place exclusively while they were contracted to the recruitment agencies.
The general type of behaviour that is seen by the majority of Portuguese workers as discriminatory is related to attitudes taken on absence from work, giving evidence of attending work, and the administration of payment of wages. In the first case, it was felt that, whereas their colleagues from Northern Ireland were entitled to take days off work due to illness or injury, Portuguese workers in the same situation were often pressurised by supervisors to return to work, and would not receive their wages if they refused. In the second example, some individuals were unhappy that their local colleagues had a system of clocking on and clocking off, whereas the Portuguese had to present themselves to their supervisors at the beginning of each shift to be signed in, and again when they reached the end of the shift. However, in interviews, several individuals who were asked their views on this matter were of the opinion that this system had been put in place as a result of some Portuguese workers’ own behaviour, and that it was their responsibility. They explained that some workers had been clocking off early, and that this procedure had been instituted to prevent this. As to the final case, many workers complained of delays and underpayments in their wages, which were blamed by supervisors on administrative errors. Nevertheless, these administrative errors were seen by those interviewed to occur frequently, and that they often took a considerable length of time to be rectified, and sometimes were not rectified at all. This was a major cause of resentment since they pointed out that such errors did not occur in the case of the workers from Northern Ireland.
Several interviewees referred to the above as cases of what they determined to be discriminatory, such as Helena (30), who had previously worked through a recruitment agency, but is now working directly for a factory, and has been in Northern Ireland for thirteen months:
"I’m very happy now, but when I worked for the other factory they treated us badly. The agency never got my wages right, and put me down for less hours than I’d worked. I complained loads of times, but they never did anything about it, although they kept telling me that it would be sorted. They still owe me wages, but I can’t be bothered with it anymore. […] You never heard the Irish complaining about this sort of thing, but you were always hearing it from the Portuguese."
Carlos (23), who was still working for an agency and had been here for five months, refers to the procedure of signing in and out:
"This is the time where you can really see how things are different for the Irish and the Portuguese. When we come in we have to get a sheet signed by the supervisor so he can see us, and the same thing when we go out, so he can tell how many hours we’ve worked. I don’t know why they bother, because they’re always getting our hours wrong anyway. […] They don’t trust us, but they trust the Irish workers."
Maria (29), who no longer worked for an agency, and had been in Northern Ireland for eight months, speaks of her experiences in relation to absences due to illness:
"I had to go to hospital for a few days because of some problems with my back. One of the supervisors kept ringing my mobile telling me to get back to work, and when I explained that I wasn’t well, he just told me that I might not have a job to go back to. Luckily, I rang another supervisor I knew, and he sorted things out for me. […] But that’s the way it is. One of the Portuguese workers cut his hand badly at work once, but the supervisor didn’t want to let him go to hospital. It was only after we all started arguing with him, especially some of the Irish workers, that he took the man to hospital."
These are some of the common instances that interviewees saw as cases of a discriminatory attitude to them in comparison to the treatment received by their colleagues from Northern Ireland. However, it must still be realised that the majority of respondents to the questionnaire replied that they had not been discriminated against, although one must also take into account the qualification pointed to by some, in relation to the short period of time they intended to remain in Northern Ireland.
Were you in employment in Portugal?
As the data above shows, a significant minority of the Portuguese now resident in Northern Ireland were unemployed in Portugal prior to being contracted by the recruitment agencies. This is the overriding reason for coming to Northern Ireland given by those interviewed who were in this position. Many of them indicated that they saw this as an opportunity to escape unemployment, even if temporarily, and therefore had no qualms about coming here. Moreover, several explained that they regarded their stay here not just as a means of earning money that they otherwise would not have been able to in Portugal, but also as a way of leaving behind certain feelings of low self-esteem linked to being unemployed. Therefore, it did not concern many Portuguese who had been unemployed that they had no experience of the type of work that they would have to undertake on arrival. As Dário (24) explains:
"I don’t care what it’s like here. It’s better than being at home doing nothing and getting bored. At least here I’m doing something and I can go back to Portugal and say I’ve worked abroad."
Several interviewees also alluded to the fact that this gave them the chance to travel to another country, which they would not have been able to do otherwise. Also, the vast majority of those interviewed, whether they were unemployed or not in Portugal, when asked whether they had any prior negative preconceptions about Northern Ireland, generally answered that they did not. However, many, including most of those that were unemployed, also stated that they knew very little about Northern Ireland, other than what they had gathered from the media, which was mostly related to negative incidents here. Nevertheless, they also explained that those images had not influenced them, and that they realised that the portrayal of Northern Ireland by the media was not a realistic picture of its total reality.
What was your job in Portugal?
The two main types of employment held by those who were in employment in Portugal prior to coming to Northern Ireland, were in sales or as factory workers, the latter constituting the highest number. Notwithstanding this, all of those interviewed who had been in employment in Portugal, stated that their wages were lower than those they receive here, no matter what the type of employment they held. For them, the more attractive remuneration offered by the agencies was the main, although not exclusive, reason for them to avail themselves of the opportunity to work in Northern Ireland. But, just as was indicated by those who had been unemployed, several of this group indicated in interviews that they also wanted to take this as an opportunity to travel. However, as has been noted before in this report, some Portuguese expressed the view that the initial attraction of higher wages was somewhat lessened on arrival, as they considered the cost of living to be higher.
Some information gathered from interviews on wages
Although the questionnaire did not ask respondents to indicate their hourly rate of pay, such information was given during interviews, not only highlighting a disparity in the rates of those that work through a recruitment agency and those that work directly for a factory, but also in the attitudes to those differences. This became overwhelmingly apparent in an interview with two workers: Josefa (29), who had been working in Northern Ireland for eight months, and was now directly employed by a factory; and Marco (33), who had been here for three months, and was working through a recruitment agency. They were asked what their hourly rates of pay were, and Marco said that he was paid £3.65 per normal hour, and £3.70+ per overtime hour; Josefa explained that she was paid £4.50 per normal hour, £7.50 per overtime hour, and £9.50 double time. I was quite surprised at the disparity in pay, considering that both of them were doing very similar jobs, notwithstanding the fact that Marco was working through a recruitment agency. I put this fact to them both, and this is what they said:
MARCO: It works out the same in the end. I get my accommodation paid for, taxis to and from work, and flights home.
JOSEFA: Yeah, but you get those things taken out of your wages. I used to get that when I was with the agency. People like him don’t work out the sums correctly. They think that they’re getting all these things for free, but they’re not. They just think it’s easier not to bother with getting your own place like I did. I’ve got a much better job now, and I managed to get a Housing Executive house.
MARCO: Yeah, well, I still think it’s the same. If you think about all the bills you have to pay, it still works out the same.
The divergent attitude apparent in this exchange between Josefa and Marco was reiterated in several other interviews. The view that the hourly rate paid by the agencies was poor was held mostly by those that had found employment directly with a factory, whereas the majority of those that did not see it as unfair were normally still contracted by the agencies, and had been in Northern Ireland for a relatively short space of time.
This section deals with whether the respondents think they have a right to vote in Northern Ireland elections; whether they normally vote; if they know that Northern Ireland has a Human Rights Commission; if they know that that Human Rights Commission was preparing a Human Rights Bill for Northern Ireland; whether they were aware that Northern Ireland has had a law against racial discrimination since 1997; and whether they knew that Northern Ireland has a Racial Equality Commission.
Do you have the right to vote in elections in Northern Ireland?
Although the great majority of Portuguese resident in Northern Ireland think that they do not have the right to vote here, it also became clear in interviews that they would be very reluctant to do so. Firstly because they felt that they did not have enough knowledge of the political situation here, and secondly because they thought that they had not been here long enough for them to have a right to determine the political reality for those who had lived here all their lives. As one interviewee put it: "I wouldn’t like someone who had just arrived in Portugal to tell me what my government should look like". On the other hand, individuals interviewed representative of those that responded that they thought that they did have a right to vote in elections here, also said that they did not wish to exercise that right, for the same reasons stated above.
Do you normally vote in elections?
The fact that the majority of respondents indicated that they did not normally vote in elections may be an indication of their feelings of political disenfranchisement in Portugal. In interviews, individuals who did not take part in the electoral process at home were also predominantly those that were unemployed, although not exclusively so. Roberto (22) said:
"All politicians are the same. They promise us everything, but they don’t change anything. I’ve got no job at home, and they’re not going to change that. […] What’s the point? It’s a waste of time. None of them are going to come knocking at the door telling me I have a job, are they?"
Did you know that Northern Ireland has a Human Rights Commission?
It is perhaps not surprising that the majority of the Portuguese are not aware of Northern Ireland’s Human Rights Commission, given that the majority are also only resident here for a short period of time, and have little knowledge of the bodies that may exist to uphold their rights. It is clear from this data that the only certain way that such an awareness could be achieved, is if the Portuguese are actively targeted with that information. It must also be noted that some of the individuals interviewed who said that they were aware of Northern Ireland’s Human Rights Commission, when asked how they knew of its existence, answered that they thought that every European Union member state had one, so Northern Ireland must logically have one also.
Did you know that the Human Rights Commission is preparing a bill on human rights for Northern Ireland?
The size of the majority that were not aware of the preparation of this bill is, perhaps, another indication that information that may affect individuals’ effectiveness in claiming their rights, must be more actively publicised amongst the Portuguese resident in Northern Ireland. In this case, it is actually surprising that some respondents indicated that they were aware of such a bill, although only two such individuals were identified during interviews. In both these cases, they informed me that they knew of this through the press, which is unusual according to the data gathered, as the majority of the Portuguese do not read the Northern Ireland newspapers, as they are more interested in hearing news from Portugal.
Did you know that since 1997 Northern Ireland has a law against racial discrimination?
These figures match those given in response to the question regarding awareness of Northern Ireland’s Human Rights Commission and, as was the case then, information gathered interviews shows that many assume that, as Portugal has laws against racial discrimination, then so should Northern Ireland, as part of the European Union.
However, it is interesting to note that two interviewees that said that they were not aware of the existence of a law here against racial discrimination, but who said that they had been discriminated against in their place of work, offered the following comments:
"I don’t know if I was racially discriminated against. I was badly treated, but I’m Portuguese, I’m not black."
"We’re Portuguese, so if they treat us badly it’s got nothing to do with race. Maybe it’s racial discrimination in the case of Angolans or the like, but we can’t say it’s racial discrimination."
These comments are very illustrative of the feelings expressed by several other interviewees, in that they do not regard laws against discrimination as affecting them. Their understanding is that such laws are more applicable to cases where ethnicity is determined by skin colour. Therefore, it is clear that targeted information should be offered to the Portuguese if they are to have access to such legislation.
Do you know that Northern Ireland has a Commission for Racial Equality?
Again, given that the majority of respondents are unaware that a statutory body exists dealing with issues of racial equality, this is another indication that such information must be provided to the Portuguese if they are to have equality of opportunity of access. However, as in the other cases, such information must be targeted specifically, and should be contained within a package of information on their rights and how to access them.
PUBLIC SERVICES AND THE STATE
This section contains information on how respondents felt that they had been treated by public services and the state (where the state refers to the police service, immigration, social security, etc., while public services include schools, health centres, hospitals, general medical practitioners, etc.). It also includes responses as to whether individuals feel that they have been discriminated against when accessing any of the above services or organisations.
How do you feel that you have been treated by the state and public services?
Firstly, it is important to note that none of the respondents indicated that they had been badly or very badly treated by the state or public services. Moreover, allied to the information gathered in interviews, the overall judgement by the Portuguese of service providers is quite positive. However, this conclusion must be tempered by the fact that it was also evident in interviews that many Portuguese did not access such service providers, and those that did tended to have had experiences with general medical practitioners and hospitals.
One of the difficulties that the Portuguese identified in accessing services has already been alluded to in the section dealing with linguistic knowledge: linguistic barriers. Although 44% of respondents indicated that they had been treated satisfactorily by service providers, interviewees explained that they would have given a more positive response if there had been no difficulties caused by difficulties in communication due to language. However, the same interviewees did not specifically apportion blame for such difficulties to the service providers, but rather only pointed to the fact that such problems existed, without suggesting who should take action to resolve them. This is evident from comments made by Tiago (22), who had been working in Northern Ireland for two months:
"I think that the public services here are good. They’re a lot better than in Portugal. […] I’ve been to a doctor twice, and once to the hospital, and I was treated well. The only problems I had were in explaining what was wrong with me, because I didn’t know the words for some of the things that I needed to tell them. But it was alright in the end."
Taking such comments into consideration, it is clear that Portuguese individuals’ estimation of public services would be even higher if barriers in communication due to language were to be overcome. It became clear during interviews that the Portuguese are not aware that service providers should take it upon themselves to take action to remedy linguistic obstacles, and viewed such difficulties as being their own responsibility, hence the fact that many Portuguese feel that they must be accompanied by another Portuguese individual with a better knowledge of the English language than themselves. It should also be considered that there may be a reluctance on behalf of some Portuguese to access public services because of their awareness that linguistic difficulties may impinge on such access.
Do you think that you have been discriminated against by the state or public services?
The significant majority indicating that the Portuguese do not feel that they have been discriminated against by the state or public services may not immediately seem to give rise for any concerns. However, the comments made above in relation to linguistic difficulties when accessing service providers should be taken into account here, since the fact that the Portuguese are not aware that it is the provider’s responsibility to resolve such difficulties, they would not see this as a possible case of discrimination.
Unfortunately, the minority that indicated that they thought they had been discriminated against did not provide any details, although some relevant information was gathered in this respect from one interviewee. António (25), who had been working in Northern Ireland for three months, described a visit to a general medical practitioner, where he thought he had been discriminated against:
"When I went into his office he just looked at me and said, "another one of you lot". He was very impatient, and just wanted me out of there as quickly as possible."
This particular reaction was identified on two other occasions in relation to other matters, but may be indicative of a lack of understanding of the Portuguese by certain service providers. It is also demonstrative of the fact that such information is needed by such providers in order not only to offer a better service, but also to alleviate time constraints. This would also be the case in respect of Portuguese language provision, since many of the difficulties arise in this area, and their resolution would alleviate pressure on providers.
Whilst undertaking this research it became very apparent that any measures taken to alleviate and improve the situation of Portuguese resident in Northern Ireland should not be done so using a generalised perspective of this group as a stable entity. Such a perspective would not take into account the fact that the majority of Portuguese return to Portugal at the end of their six month contracts, and are replaced by others. Therefore, any strategies that may be used affecting the Portuguese must allow for the fact that a significant percentage are transitory, and so it must be ensured that any information distributed to the Portuguese is done on a regular basis in order to reach as many individuals as possible.
Such information must also be provided in Portuguese to prospective users, but also to service providers. The latter should also be made more aware of the profile of the Portuguese resident here, and of their needs, thereby enabling them to provide an enhanced service. Crucially, as well as possessing relevant information in Portuguese for prospective users, providers must also have access to Portuguese language provision in the form of translators and interpreters. This would ensure that Portuguese individuals will receive equal treatment, and that many would no longer be reluctant to access services. The Portuguese should also be made aware that it is the responsibility of service providers to make the necessary arrangements to overcome any possible linguistic difficulties.
Another important action that should be taken, is to provide the Portuguese with information on their employment rights, and how to claim them. As this report has indicated, many Portuguese are reluctant to make issue of what they perceive as unfair treatment, since they are only going to be resident in Northern Ireland for six months, and therefore do not think that any action on their part would be compensatory. Where cases of unfair treatment arise, it should also be made clear as to which employment entity has the responsibility to resolve them: whether the relevant recruitment agency, or the factory where they work.
The fact that all of those interviewed did not consider that there existed anything that could be called a Portuguese community should also be a major cause for concern. Although one of the major reasons for this is that a significant proportion of the Portuguese residing here is constantly changing, the fact that there is a perceived lack of community identity leads to feelings of isolation among individuals, which geographical dispersion adds to. It also affects their ability to access relevant information, as there is no central entity that could disseminate it as efficiently as possible. This problem could be resolved if there were more spaces dedicated to the Portuguese resident here, which they would not be intimidated in accessing. From the information gathered in interviews already alluded to, such spaces should be easily identifiable as belonging to the Portuguese community, and provided with appropriate resources, such as Portuguese satellite television. If possible, such spaces should also be organised and staffed by Portuguese individuals, as there may be a reluctance to access spaces where there is little or no involvement by the Portuguese themselves. If such provision were made, then it would become easier to disseminate relevant information, as they would become focal points for the Portuguese community.
Another aspect that should also be tackled, is the apparent lack of understanding between the Portuguese and the local communities in which they reside. Interviewees often displayed an eagerness to know more about local history, politics and culture, while at the same time giving evidence of misconceptions and somewhat negative generalisations. But it must be emphasised that the will exists among the Portuguese to learn more about the communities in which they live, and that that will should be acknowledged practically. Allied to this is the fact that many interviewees also commented on the adverse comments made by individuals from their local communities about the Portuguese, as well as a reciprocal lack of knowledge about Portugal itself. Therefore, it is clear that much rewarding work could be done on these related issues, offering both the Portuguese and the local communities opportunities to learn more about each other, and thereby reducing the possibilities of misunderstandings.
These are just a few general comments on the information gathered during this research project and its possible outcomes. It is hoped that other entities will study it in more detail and identify other possible areas of action that would beneficially influence the conditions of the Portuguese community living in Northern Ireland. However, as has already been stressed on several occasions, the Portuguese community is constantly changing, and so this report should not be taken as an exhaustive one, or as definitive. As the individuals that make up the Portuguese community are changing, so may their needs, therefore care should be taken to undertake this type of research periodically. Such research would be facilitated if adequate spaces are provided for the Portuguese community, since accessing it would become easier. Finally, it is hoped that the information contained within this report will be of some use to interested parties, and that it may facilitate an understanding of the conditions of the Portuguese resident in Northern Ireland.
This questionnaire will form part of a study of the Portuguese community resident in the Dungannon area, in order to identify possible problems faced by the Portuguese so that these may be resolved.
The questionnaire is anonymous, therefore the respondent must not write their name on any part of it.
Place a cross beside the appropriate answers
1. Sex: Masculine Feminine
2. Age:less than 16 16-25 26-35 36-50
51-65 65 +
3. Marital Status:Single Married
4. Country of Origin: _____________________
5. How long have you been in Northern Ireland?: (Years/Months)
6. Reasons why you came to Northern Ireland (Indicate with a cross the most appropriate answers):
Employment Study Marriage
Family Friends Refugee
Other reasons:(which?) __________________________________________________
7. (If you are not married you may proceed to question 8)
Does your spouse reside in Northern Ireland with you? Yes No
8. Do you have children? Yes (How many? _____ ) No
9. (If you answered "no" to question 8, you may proceed to question 12)
Do all your children reside in Northern Ireland? Yes No
10. (If you answered "yes" to question 9, you may proceed to question 11)
How many of your children reside in Northern Ireland? __________
11. Do any of your children have British or Irish citizenship?
Yes (How many? _____ ) No
12. Do you have British or Irish citizenship? Yes No
13. Have you resided in other countries? Yes No
14. (If you answered "no" to question 13, you may proceed to question 15) In which countries have you resided?__________________________________________________
15. (Place a cross beside the appropriate answers)
How would you define your level of English?
Fluent Very Good Good Satisfactory
Bad Very Bad I do not speak English
16. Excluding your own language, indicate whether you have knowledge of other languages and their level:
17. (Place a cross beside the most appropriate answers)
What level of eductaion do you have, and where did you receive it?
In your own country Here
18. Are your educational qualifications recognised here? Yes No
19. Have you felt discriminated against for having been educated abroad?
Employment (Place a cross beside the most appropriate answers)
20. Are you currently in employment? Yes No
21. (If you answered "yes" to question 20, you may proceed to question 22) What is your current situation?
Student Housewife Unemployed
22. (If you answered "no" to question 20, you may proceed to question 32 )
What is your occupation? _______________________________
23. How long have you been in your present employment? _______________
24. Are you employed full-time or part-time ?
25. How many hours do you normally work per week? _________
26. Do you only work from Mondays to Fridays or do you have to work at the weekends?
27. Do you have to do night shifts? Yes No
28. Do you have fixed hours of work or are they irregular ?
29. Have you had other jobs in Northern Ireland? Yes No
30. (If you answered "no" to question 29, you may proceed to question 31)
What other jobs have you had? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
31. Have you felt you have been discriminated against in seeking employment or in your place of work? Give Details:
32. Were you in employment in your own country? Yes No
33. (If you answered "no" to question 32, you may proceed to question 34)
What was your job? ________________________________________________
34. Do you have the right to vote in Northern Ireland? Yes No
35. Do you normally vote in elections? Yes No
36. Did you know that Northern Ireland has a Human Rights Commission?
37. Did you know that the Human Rights Commission is preparing a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland? Yes No
38. Did you know that since 1997 Northern Ireland has a law against racial discrimination? Yes No
39. Did you know that Northern Ireland has a Commission for Racial Equality?
Public Services and the State
40. How do you feel you have treated by the State and public services? (The State includes the police, immigration, social security, while public services include schools, health centres, GPs, hospitals, etc.)
Very Well Well Satisfactorily
Badly Very Badly
41. Do you think you have been discriminated against by the State or public services?
THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP